Maintaining a Clean Database — It’s Easier (and More Valuable) Than You Might Think!
Are you taking steps to get the most out of your patient database? This critical collection of patient information can be a mighty workhorse in your business operations, but it takes a bit of reasonable care and feeding. The effort, however, can pay off in huge dividends.
Where do you start? Read on for the big picture on why your patient database matters to the central functioning of your practice. You’ll also get a primer on the importance of clean data, the types of information to collect, and regular maintenance to keep your database in top shape.
In the end, it’s all about delivering the best patient experience and strengthening your business’s bottom line, so let’s dive in.
Why Does Your Patient Database Matter?
Some might say that a well-maintained patient database is worth its weight in gold. It costs a lot to acquire new patients. When you get good patients, you want to keep them, and a well-maintained database can help you do just that.
A look at patient acquisition costs — the average total marketing spend needed to convert a lead into an actual patient — shows some stark differences:
- Average cost to acquire a new patient = $525
- Average cost to bring in an established patient = $100
- Thus, the cost to bring in a new patient = over 5x the cost of an established patient
As you can see, fostering patient loyalty — keeping people coming back — costs significantly less than converting potential prospects. Your patient database can provide a robust foundation to further enhance patient connections and develop enduring relationships.
Your database can also improve operational efficiency — another key to cost reduction. Especially if you’ve taken your database digital. A paper filing system is better than none at all, but a digital office management system offers more options and helps keep you in step with today’s industry.
Clean data isn’t just good for operational processes. It creates a more customized patient experience, allowing you to tailor both your print and digital communications as well as in-person engagement. Consumers are increasingly focused on these customized experiences. Using your database to personalize your communication is more likely to create an emotional connection to your patients.
Research has shown that businesses positioned to maximize emotional connections can outdo their competition by 85%. In addition, consumers treated to previous great experiences spend 140% more. The takeaway: Building and optimizing your database to support your efforts in providing customized communication is not only great patient care but also good for business.
What’s the Importance of a Clean Database?
Having a clean database is crucial to maximizing the benefits this collection of patient information can offer. A clean database not only reduces your costs but is also essential for the efficiency of both your practice’s patient care and marketing efforts.
Let’s break down some of the reasons to keep your patient database clean as a whistle:
- Reduce costs — less returned mail, less risk of being seen as a spam emailer, and better insurance collections if you keep your data clean.
- Save time — less duplication, less hand entry.
- Deliver a positive outcome and premier patient experience — having up-to-date data and tracking lets you address each patient individually, responding to their needs, providing consistent follow-up, and ensuring they don’t have to repeat information each time they visit your practice.
- Streamline and customize the patient journey — more data allows you to personalize your communications to patients and target your patient marketing and outreach.
- Anticipate new trends — watching trends in your database helps you pivot based on what is or isn’t working well. For example, If you see a referral source such as digital advertising taking off, it might make sense to invest more.
- Eliminate mistakes in patient care — ensure records are being tracked on the correct patient.
Remember, ensuring a clean database means removing inaccurate information and replacing it with correct, up-to-date information. How often you need to clean your database depends on how big your practice is, how much information you collect, and how diligent your team is with data entry.
What Data Should You Collect?
In a world of infinite information, it’s important to be strategic in deciding which data matters for your business’s needs. The most salient database details involve three main categories:
- First and Last Name
- Date of Birth
- Home Phone
- Cell Phone
- Email Address
- Warranty Expiration Dates
- Level/Type of Hearing Loss
- Appointment Type
- Appointment Outcome
- Level of Hearing Loss
- Technology Preference and Level
- Right and Left Test Dates
- Right and Left Purchase Dates
- Appointment Cancellation Types
- Referral Sources and Subcategories
- Custom Patient Groups
- Do Not Mail/Call
- Referring Physician
- Hearing Aid Patient
- Tested Not Treated/Tested Not Sold
- Pediatric No Loss, No Hearing Aid
- Did Not Test
How Can You Keep the Data Clean & Pristine?
Cleaning and maintaining your patient database takes some time and detail. After all, you’re curating a collection of information that’s unique to your business and will help you stand apart. These three simple steps will help you clean up your database.
Step 1: Prioritize Patient Groups
You don’t have to tackle the entire database all at once. Deciding what your patient groups will be and where to start in terms of cleanup can help avoid the sense of feeling overwhelmed. It’s OK to start small by focusing on patients you’re needing to get back in the practice soon — for example, those with technology over four years old or recent “Tested Not Treated/Tested Not Sold” patients.
Step 2: Correct Incorrect Demographic Data
Bad inputs lead to bad outputs, making it important to fix incorrect information fast. Ensure “First Name,” “Last Name,” “DOB,”” Email,” “Home Phone,” “Cell Phone,” and “Address” elements are complete and accurate and that you’re following archival processes for patients who are no longer coming into the practice or are deceased.
Step 3: Fill in Missing Data Points
A business can’t act on pertinent information it doesn’t have, so it’s crucial to take time not only to identify what may be missing but also to fill in the gaps. Using quality document-management software and even reviewing physical patient files can help locate the missing details needed to shore up the data points — including information such as testing and purchase dates.
Effective cleaning processes may also screen your data against these sources:
- National Change of Address database
- Coding Accuracy Support System certification
- Nursing home and prison data
- Deceased-mailing-address suppression
Cleaning up your database is more than half the battle. Once you’ve done that, the proven best practices shared below can go a long way toward helping the database stay clean.
Develop and implement standard procedures for front-office staff during patient engagements
- Confirm full name/spelling, birth date, address, phone number, and email address before disclosing any information.
- Helps ensure Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act compliance over the phone and helps keep information up to date.
Implement standards for data entry
- Formatting standards (abbreviations, capitalization, punctuation/symbols)
- Names (first letter capitalized; no hyphens, use space instead)
- DOB (XX-XX-XXXX)
- Address (formatted without punctuation)
- Phone # (XXX-XXX-XXXX; numbers only, no text; enter extensions in a separate field)
- Reference ID cards when entering the patient’s full name
- Helps ensure more efficient processing of insurance claims and reduce duplicate records from misspelled names
- Use “Preferred Name” field only for patient’s preferred names — no notes — to help ensure accuracy and consistency within records while also personalizing the patient experience
Create Provider Post-Appointment Checklist
Ensures important fields are updated post-appointment (“Test Dates,” “HA Purchase Date,” “Tested-Not-Sold Objection Reason,” “Import or Manually Enter Audiogram Data”)
From reduced costs, improved efficiencies, and greater anticipation of actionable trends to better patient care, retention, and outcomes, clean data offers considerable benefits at every level. The best part? You don’t have to accomplish it alone. Audigy’s business experts are here to help.
Ready to Experience the Benefits of Clean Data?
Patient Database in Action: Marketing Automation
Did you know? Marketing automation is one of the easiest ways to nurture your patient database, deepening relationships with the people who count on you for care.
Audigy’s marketing automation program saves practice owners’ time, strengthens patient-provider bonds, and helps increase revenue. How? By leveraging your patient database to:
- Engage your patients with targeted, personalized communication that addresses their specific needs, helping create better patient experiences and outcomes.
- Keep your practice top of mind with patients when it’s time to purchase or repurchase hearing aid technology.
- Save your team time by assisting with contacting tested-not-treated patients, extended-warranty patients, appointment reminders, and more!
Marketing automation is a computer-aided, database-cultivation system that delivers custom information to your target audience and calls them to action based on your specific business goals, your audiences’ product and service needs, and events or other circumstances that trigger engagement opportunities.
This ongoing engagement can reach across various communication channels — email, social media, text, and websites — with messaging tailored to existing and prospective patients. Plus, it’s working for you whether your office is open or closed and whether your team is available or helping patients and their loved ones, saving your business valuable time.
Rather than a practice being limited to providing remarkable patient experiences only within its four walls, marketing automation allows it to:
- Deliver that remarkability before the patient even steps into the office for the first time.
- Continue delivering that positive, brand-reinforcing experience long after the patient leaves.
- Achieve better outcomes and gain more opportunities for patient advocacy on the practice’s behalf.
- Reach target audiences where they are, using the effective communication practices of today.
What sets our marketing automation program apart? Audigy’s exclusive program is based on our proven Patients for Life® process, which covers every part of the patient hearing care experience from initial phone call to consultations, fittings, follow-ups, and beyond. It’s also:
- Built for and specific to the hearing-care space
- Replete with hands-on coaching from our Strategic Business Units
- Administered by Audigy’s in-house team of marketing and training experts
- Easily integrated within popular audiology office-management systems for seamless automation
An essential part of Audigy’s marketing automation program is keeping the patient experience paramount. Supporting your practice’s engagement efforts by maintaining the focus where it belongs — on the people you serve — helps your business retain existing patients, motivate prospects, generate more opportunities, and accurately measure your marketing success.
Harvard Business Review. The Value of Customer Experience, Quantified. https://hbr.org/2014/08/the-value-of-customer-experience-quantified. Accessed April 29, 2022.